Linux Is Crunchy For Burton’s SAP Ops


Boardsports, be it snow, skate, or surf, is a multi-million dollar industry, populated with large manufacturers and cottage shops, all trying to get a piece of these sports’ action. With such competition in place, particularly when the current economic climate is discouraging discretionary spending on boarding equipment, it’s no small feat to reduce part of an IT budget by 80 percent.

That’s exactly what happened when The Burton Corporation shifted its SAP-related infrastructure from HP-UX on proprietary big iron to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) on commodity boxes last year.

Nearly everything about the migration went smoothly, according to Bill York, senior Linux administrator at Burton. York, who came to Burton in the midst of the migration operation, detailed what was behind the move in the first place.

“There was not a lot of value coming out of the [HP-UX] operating system,” York explained. Burton’s SAP operations had experienced frequent downtime and the hardware costs were pinching the company’s bottom line as well. When examining their options, York’s co-workers determined that a Linux-on-commodity solution would be the best solution. Linux gave the company a wider range of options in terms of hardware and application support, since it could handle their BSD- and System V-based scripts without too much porting pain.

Invariably, the decision came down to Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SLES. Burton opted for SLES, York said, because of Novell’s close relationship with SAP, as highlighted by the MySAP program announced at last year’s BrainShare conference.

York was impressed with how well the migration went. Much of the work effort, he said in an interview last week, was contending with SAP-related issues–something that would have happened regardless of any platform Burton would have chosen. The performance was impressive to he and his co-workers, too. When testing various aspects of the implementation, York and his DBA colleagues were often amazed at how well an over-resourced Linux server would “keep chugging along, and never crash.”

According to Burton, moving its mission-critical SAP and Oracle environments to SLES helped them reduce overall server-related costs by over 80 percent. The new environment also reduced power consumption by 30 percent.

For his part, York didn’t seem too surprised. His first commercial exposure to Linux, which was prior to 2000, was when he went to his local Wal-Mart to buy a copy of MandrakeLinux for $25. York then used the software to set up a DNS box for his then-employer–a system he didn’t have to touch again for two years.

Burton’s experience wasn’t quite as straightforward, but relative to this Unix-to-Linux SAP migration, it appears to have been almost as easy.